Hong Kong’s Temple Street Night Market: Souvenirs, Psychics, and Sex.

A vendor sits with his goods on Temple Street, Hong Kong. [Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by User:Sengkang of ENglish]

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Hong Kong is certainly one of the world’s premier urban centers. Towering skyscrapers and bright neon lights are a constant reminder of the city’s ceaseless commerce and bustle. Fumes from diesel ships transporting people and goods across the harbor waft through the streets, mingle with car exhaust. All the while, iconic and eco-friendly Junks bob up and down in harbor, abandoned in favor of faster ships,their batwing sails, sagging in disrepair. The city is loud and crowded and just my kind of place.

There’s much more to Hong Kong than most tourists see. From sprawling panoramic views, to the outlying farmlands and jungle hikes on nearby islands, Hong Kong will surprise even the most jaded of travelers.

One of the most interesting and lively things to do in Hong Kong is to take a walk through The Temple Street Night Market. The market is open 7 days a week, starting at 4PM with food stalls and trinket vendors hawking their goods until the early morning hours. Here, you can find some of the best discount shopping in Hong Kong, but be prepared to bargain!  The haggling culture is strong here, so if you come for deals, be prepared to fight for your price! Temple Street is sometimes known as Men’s Street, supposedly because of the popular men’s clothing stalls, and not because of the abundance of prostitutes nearby. But the reality is, there are plenty of both in the area, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for, no matter what it is.

To get to the markets, take the MTR metro to Jordan. Temple Street runs parallel to Nathan Road, and the market area starts at the south end of the street in Jordan. The first thing you’ll find are food stalls, often packed with patrons, spilling out into the streets, waiting for cheap and tasty eats.  This a great place to feast on some inexpensive local food before venturing further into the market chaos. You’ll find some strange things here. testicles from too many animals to comprehend are on the menu, and so are stomachs and brains and even camel’s hump. Sea creatures, unrecognizable, but somehow still moving can often be seen on plates.

Blazing incandescent bulbs illuminate the night market stalls. [Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by User:Sengkang of ENglish]

No matter what country you’re in, the local market is bound to be a frenzied nexus of commerce and culture in its rawest form – and the Temple Street Night Market certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Stalls at the entry to the market sell cheap clothing, souvenirs, knock off electronics, bootlegged DVDs, and just about anything you can imagine.  You’ll see stall after stall with the same selection of cheap sunglasses or the same, endless display of knockoff watches. It’s a sea of same, same, but different. You have to wonder how these people make a living, when they are all selling the same thing. And you have to wonder who the hell is buying this crap — until you find yourself haggling down the price of a pair of traditional Chinese shoes for no reason.

Eventually, Temple Street comes to an end, and you’ll find yourself at a multi-level parking garage, but don’t worry – the market still has a few surprises up it’s seedy little sleeves.

Listen for the unmistakable crooning of Cantonese opera, echoing off the concrete and emanating from the opera tents down the road. Amateur singers gather here to perform traditional opera for locals and tourists. Feel free to stop and have a listen, but be aware that most of the stall will have prices listed for suggested donations, whether you’d like to listen, film, or take photos of the performers. Just around the corner, you’ll find mystics and fortune tellers, with tables set up along the Tin Hau Temple. Having your fortune read by an ancient Canontonese mystic while incense burns on the streets of Hong Kong is certainly an interesting experience.

Th neon lights, constantly flashing overhead. [Photo via Wikimedia Commons by User:Sengkang of ENglish]

And the Market just gets more interesting from here! Around the temple, you’ll find a whole different kind of market. Instead of knockoff watches and cheap gadgets, these stalls hawk dildos, vibrators, blow up dolls and butt plugs. Yes, friends, the Temple Street night market has an adult section where you can buy sex toys, herbal enhancements, porn DVDs, and other adult items. This area is also frequented by prostitutes. You’ll find them around the car park and waiting on street corners, trying to look casual in knee-high boots and impossibly short skirts. Rumor has it, there are more than a few brothels in the area as well, and girls are priced by ethnicity. The cheapest prostitutes in Hong Kong are Thai and Philippine girls; the most expensive are from Russia. You should know that prostitution is legal in Hong Kong, but public solicitation is against the law. So the area is also popular with police who like to run busts.

The Temple Street night market isn’t for everyone. You’re going to see junkies and homeless people milling around in the streets with nowhere to go. You’ll be swept up in the chaos and deafening buzz of market commerce and angry-sounding haggling. You’re bound to get ripped off on a cheap knockoff watch and have your delicate sensibilities shattered by the presence of sex toys and prostitutes. But if you don’t mind a bit of grit and a dose of reality, you’ll probably love your visit to the night market.  These are the places where real local culture blossoms, and for me, these are the places where you really get to know a city.

Hong Kong is not a cheap city to visit, but it’s certainly worth a look. With a little bit of research, you can find great travel deals online. Many international flights include a stopover flight to Hong Kong, so this city sees a lot of travelers who simply pass through on their way to other, more affordable Asian destinations. Flights from London to Australia often stop here, so there are always a few Aussies and Brits around to explore the city with.

Other things to do in Hong Kong:

Panorama at Victoria Peak: Here you can see an incredible view of the harbor and the iconic skyline.

Victoria Harbor Light Show: The Guinness World Records has named this spectacular (and free!) light show, “The World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show”. The show starts every night at 8PM and is best viewed along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Center.

Take a Ride on one of Hong Kong’s Famous Junks: These iconic wooden ships feature awesome, batwing sails and were a staple of transport until faster ferries outpaced them. But they are still great for a cruise around Victoria Harbor, and they won’t break the bank.

Visit the Islands: Hong Kong is actually an archipelago of 260 islands. Lantau, Lamma, and Cheung Chau are all worth a visit, and offer tourists a chance to escape the neon lights and frenetic pace of the city, and enjoy a bit of natural tranquility.

Louis Woodruff

About Louis Woodruff

Louis Woodruff is the anti-traveler. He's jaded, unforgiving, and snarky. He's been around the block and isn't afraid to tackle sensitive or taboo subjects. He writes with passion and honesty about the world as he sees it. Louis is Gonzo Travel at its worst.